An open letter to the Minister of Transport on herbicide spraying

Witnesses raise concerns over discrepencies over where spraying was done

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter from a number of Tehkummah residents to the Ministry of Transportation.

Dear Mr. Sedgwick,

Thank you very much for your detailed reply to the township of Tehkummah regarding the spraying of a chemical that is highly toxic to fish and aquatic life, also a known ‘Class 2B carcinogen,’ in the township this summer.

We do appreciate your ongoing concern for public safety. However, indiscriminate spraying of barely tested, newly developed toxins is very dangerous. The very real hazards of skyrocketing cancer rates in humans, irreversible poisoning of rivers, ground water, insects, fish, animals, and people’s vegetable gardens adjacent to the highway far outweigh the benefits of saving a few dollars on labour costs to maintain clear sight-lines with chemicals of notorious uncertainty.

As you correctly mention, Ontario Regulation 63/09 and Pest Control Act requires “a public notification and/or individual notification signs posted in the area to be sprayed.” This same law, section 79(2), states that the notice “may be published… at least one week before the extermination begins.” The notice in question was published three business days before the spraying was scheduled to begin, as per the notice itself. While still technically legal, it is absolutely inadequate.

Unfortunately, no signs were put up in the areas sprayed. Therefore, we only have your word on that only six hectares (14 acres) were sprayed and not the planned 11 hectares (27 acres). “In addition, a small print 3”x5” public notice on page 21 of a local newspaper was noticed by only a very small number of people, who then brought it to the attention of their neighbours. A bigger, more precise advertisement in the beginning of the newspaper would have been much more noticeable. Even allowing for the “potential gaps” that you mention, mass mailings are very efficient in reaching the actual people who are affected by this spraying, whether they read the local newspaper or not.” Notifying the township office is also a good start.

The “natural woody stemmed plants” that you mention are called “trees” in plain English.  It is with great sadness that we see the steadfast, non-invasive flagships of native flora such as the beautifully shivering alder, ever-whispering poplar, graceful birch, fragrant cedar, towering pine, stately spruce and the colourful sumac being targeted by the spraying. In many cultures across North America, and to some of us, these plants are sacred and are a source of powerful medicines.

Furthermore, instead of saying that the spraying program was “not limited to…” and “…etc.” you could have saved words and simply wrote: everything. This blanket spraying targeted everything. The deadly concoction destroyed or seriously damaged every living organism it touched.

It is disheartening to learn that 1.2 kg of the stuff was released into the environment that day, mere 12 hours before a torrential downpour the very next morning.

Your statement that “[the] herbicide was not applied to any area outside of those areas identified in the public notice” directly contradicts a report by a local resident who witnessed the spraying being done on the east shoulder of highway 542, just north of the Sandfield bridge. The witness estimated that the spraying was done as close as 500 m away from a creek. To remind you, the notice stated that the area to be sprayed is “starting 250m west of Hwy 542A and then Northerly for 10.11km”. We invite you to locate the westernmost point of Hwy 542A on a map, measure 250m west from it, and then draw a line due north thereon for 10.11 kms. The resulting line is nowhere close to where the spraying was witnessed. Was the witness mistaken? If she was not, who is?

We are looking forward to your contacting the Township of Tehkummah to discuss the proposed vegetation control operations in the future.

Yours truly,

Tehkummah residents:

Aldona A. Tribinevicius

Algis Tribinevicius

Anastasia Eranosova

Beth Richards

Bob Playter

Boo Watson

Brenda Playter

Connor Davies

George Kopylov

Ginger Cranston

Heather McGauley

Jaime Rowntree

Janice Mitchell

Josh Messent

Justin Coutts

Keith Cranston

Kevin Cranston

Lorie Leeson

Pat Keating

Paul Bowerman

Mark Seabrook

Mary Yett

Michelle Hrynyk

Shane ODonnell

Susan Hart